Curtis Stone’s Sandwich Savvy

Get some fresh new ideas for the incredible sandwich, including a tomato and avocado panini and a roast chicken sandwich with giardiniera.

Panini Mozzarella-Pesto

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Who doesn’t love a good sandwich? Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, in my humble opinion, any time is sandwich time. Portable and filling, sandwiches are remarkably versatile, with universal appeal — nearly every culture on the planet has its own version.

For my Tomato and Avocado Panini with Mozzarella and Pesto recipe, I use pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan, and fresh basil — the perfect balance of flavors — to make the pesto sauce.

When selecting bread for a panini, I prefer ciabatta, which has a soft interior and crusty exterior and a square, flat surface area with a lot of pockets — the perfect base for your tomato and avocado.

Save time in the kitchen by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken to make my Roast Chicken Sandwich with Giardiniera. An Italian relish of pickled vegetables, giardiniera adds zip and crunch to your sandwich. Aioli, a key ingredient, is basically mayonnaise, but my garlic and mustardy version is a traditional condiment in Provence. Reserve any extra for burgers, sweet potato fries, or grilled veggies: It keeps in the fridge for 5 days. Want to go the extra mile? Add a slice or two of Gruyère or fontina cheese and grill until the cheese oozes all over the filling. With a 10-minute prep and an additional 10-minute cooking time, this flavorful recipe is ideal for a lazy day at home or a ­picnic.

Tomato and Avocado Panini with Mozzarella and Pesto

(Makes 4 servings)

Pesto

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 bunches fresh basil leaves (about 1 1/2 cups lightly packed)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon

Panini

  • 1 ciabatta loaf
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, quartered, cut into thin strips
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, preferably buffalo
  • 1 tablespoon (about) extra-virgin olive oil

Special Equipment

  • 2 bricks

To make pesto: Using mortar and pestle or food processor, puree garlic into coarse puree. Add basil and pound or grind until it is coarsely chopped. Add pine nuts and smash to break them up. Mix in Parmesan cheese. Slowly mix olive oil into pesto and grind until well blended. Squeeze lemon juice into pesto and stir to blend. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

To make sandwiches: Prepare barbecue for medium heat. Wrap 2 bricks with aluminum foil. Using serrated knife, cut ciabatta loaf horizontally into 3 slices. Lay bottom and middle bread slices on work surface. Arrange avocado slices over bottom and middle bread slices. Arrange tomato slices over avocado. Season with salt and pepper. Tear mozzarella cheese and scatter it over tomato slices. Spoon pesto over cheese. Assemble sandwich layers, positioning middle layer atop bottom layer. Cover with top bread slice and press sandwich firmly to compress. Brush oil over sandwich. Place sandwich on grill. Set baking tray atop sandwich and weigh it down with wrapped bricks. Grill panini until bread is toasted and cheese has melted, about 5 minutes on each side. Cut panini into 4 pieces. Arrange sandwiches on platter and serve immediately.

Make-Ahead: Pesto can be made 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

Per serving

  • Calories: 651
  • Total Fat: 50 g
  • Saturated Fat: 6 g
  • Sodium: 573 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 43 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 17.5 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 2.3 starch, 2 lean meat, 0.5 vegetable, 8 fat

Roast Chicken Sandwich with Giardiniera

Roast Chicken Sandwich
(Ray Kachatorian)

(Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/2 store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 1 8-ounce jar giardiniera, drained
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup aioli (recipe at right)
  • 8 3/4-inch-thick slices semolina twist bread or French bread, toasted if desired
  • 1 cup sliced romaine lettuce leaves

Using your hands, pull meat from chicken carcass, tearing it into bite-size pieces, and set aside. Discard bones and cartilage. Rinse giardiniera and drain well on paper towels. In food processor, pulse giardiniera and parsley until giardiniera is coarsely chopped.

Spread giardiniera mixture and aioli over bread slices. Top 4 slices with lettuce and chicken, then top with remaining bread slices. Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

AIoli

(Makes 1 cup or 16 tablespoons)

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)

In food processor, combine garlic, Dijon, lemon juice, and egg yolk and process until smooth. With motor running, slowly add the oils, processing until mixture is emulsified and creamy. Add enough water to thin aioli to the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.

Per serving (4 ounces chicken, 1 tablespoon aioli):

  • Calories: 334
  • Total Fat: 13 g
  • Saturated Fat: 2 g
  • Sodium: 551 mg
  • Carbohydrate: 26 g
  • Fiber: 1.5 g
  • Protein: 23 g
  • Diabetic Exchanges: 1.5 starch, 1.5 lean protein, 0.5 vegetable, 4.5 fat

Recipes © Curtis Stone

Hungry for more? Get a taste of Curtis Stone’s Zucchini Grilled Cheese at saturdayeveningpost.com/zucchinicheese.

Excerpted from Good Food, Good Life by Curtis Stone. Copyright © 2015 by Curtis Stone. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

This article is featured in the May/June 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Ray Kachatorian

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